AN ODD DUCK OR A PLAID FLAMINGO?
“I feel like a plaid flamingo standing on one foot at the edge of the water, while everyone else floats by with ease,” I squawked.
“You’re an odd duck,” my friend responded. “We writers are all odd ducks.”
I phoned to get my feathers stroked not ruffled, I thought.
After our conversation, I decided to pray for confirmation as I prepared for the Montrose Christian Writers’ Conference.
The time finally arrived for my friend and I to migrate north for a week of meditation, motivation, and inspiration.
Sunday evening I followed the flock to the chapel.
“All of us in this room,” the speaker began, “are odd ducks.”
That’s my confirmation, motivation, and inspiration? We’re all odd ducks?
Each morning in chapel a speaker challenged us for the day. In my mind, two of the challenges stuck out like a duck’s bill. One challenge encouraged us to take time to fail.
“Failure promotes success,” she said. “Forcing us to dig a little deeper, it stimulates us to become better writers. If used properly, failure strengthens our character. We will never soar to greater heights by staying in our comfort zone only doing what we know we do well.” She then asked us to promise to fail four times this coming year.
Ironically, the other challenge inspired us to accept our rejection slips with enthusiasm. This successful author encircled the conference room with “just a few” of her rejection slips she had taped end to end. I felt as if she gave us an enormous group hug.
“Don’t let the sun go down on a rejection slip. They pave the way to success,” she said. “Within 48 hours, make any revisions you deem necessary and send your manuscript out again to another editor.”
Like a lame duck, I shuffled to my first session at the Manuscript Clinic. The instructor began her examination of our prose by explaining the importance of a solid foundation.
“Purpose, content, and structure foster a healthy manuscript. Our first exercise: summarize your manuscript in one sentence,” she recommended.
Next we examined the lead, body, and conclusion. I amputated over half of my lead statement, reconstructed my body, and toned up my conclusion. Anecdotes and illustrations added sparkle. Careful choice of words gave character. Description and dialogue sparked interest. My manuscript breathed a deep sigh. Its pulse beat stronger. Its purpose grew clearer. I thought I saw feathers beginning to sprout.
Then the time came to strut my hatchling in front of its first critique group.
They pecked and plucked at my manuscript, not maliciously, but with observant, caring eyes. As they pointed out unclear statements, made suggestions, and even mentioned strengths, I was encouraged to continue flapping my wings.
“Close observation of other people equips us with realism in our writing and puts pizzazz on each page.” Our instructor insisted as we pledged to eavesdrop at every opportunity.
It became obvious that, like a duck’s tail, details navigate the reader from point to point.
The week flew by like a gaggle of geese on a warm autumn evening. Friday morning, the rest of the flock and I waddled into the chapel for the last time.
The speaker began his farewell discourse, “You were not chosen because of wit, intelligence, or any other ability. No one was. God chose you because of your inability so that He could equip you and so that He would receive all the glory. Now go and embrace your quirkiness,” he concluded.
Why does that make sense? Oh, no! I think my feet are beginning to web.
With a promise to fail four times, a pledge to eavesdrop, and a challenge to embrace my quirkiness, I emerged from the Montrose Christian Writers’ Conference with a new found vigor for writing.
Ducks plunge into the water while flamingoes stand on one foot at the edge of the lake as though they are afraid to get the other foot wet. I choose to plunge like a duck!
See you in a twinkling,
Brenda K. Hendricks
Cross & Quill, volume 26, issue 3, May/June 2004